PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 19 May 2021

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Aaron Danis and David Redpath suggested items for this latest edition.

The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and War on the Rocks have created a Defense Futures Simulator:

The Defense Futures Simulator will allow users to see how various defense strategies and choices would alter the Defense Department budget. A sophisticated data science algorithm will enable users to first decide whether they want to adjust the current strategy. For example, some users may focus on great-power competition, while others may prioritize counter-insurgency and counterterrorism. They will then be able to select a certain budget level or choose to work with an unconstrained budget. Once these inputs are finalized, the simulator will use the algorithm to reflect how the user’s strategic preferences and budget constraints might change the US military’s size, composition, and capabilities.

Marine Corps Times reports that the US Marine Corps broke ground on its new wargaming center on May 12:

The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is planned to open in summer 2023. The site is next to the Marine Corps University where mid-career and senior office and enlisted Marines attend.

That proximity means that planners can bring in Marines who are coming from the fleet to participate in planning or experiments and to provide feedback.

The center gives planners a way to run through everything from equipment strengths and weaknesses to entire campaign plans using existing capabilities and tactics or mid- to long-term anticipating capabilities.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commander, told Marine Corps Times in an email statement that as the Corps works on concept development, experiments and exercises in the fleet both the positive and negative feedback will be sent to the wargaming center.

“Young Marines will see the benefit of expanded channels for feedback,” Watson said. “In the end, this will allow the Marine Corps to iteratively learn and continuously improve our organizational and capability investment decisions, ensuring that our plans and investments don’t just look good on paper, but are underpinned by rigorous wargaming and analysis.”

In a US Army War College War Room podcast, Ed Zukowski  and Ken Gilliam discuss the International Strategic Crisis Negotiations Exercise, a  two-day strategic negotiation event.

According to an article in Defense News, “A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030.”

The U.S. Air Force repelled a Chinese invasion of Taiwan during a massive war game last fall by relying on drones acting as a sensing grid, an advanced sixth-generation fighter jet able to penetrate the most contested environments, cargo planes dropping pallets of guided munitions and other novel technologies yet unseen on the modern battlefield.

But the service’s success was ultimately pyrrhic. After much loss of life and equipment, the U.S. military was able to prevent a total takeover of Taiwan by confining Chinese forces to a single area. 

Furthermore, the air force that fought in the simulated conflict isn’t one that exists today, nor is it one the service is seemingly on a path to realize. While legacy planes like the B-52 bomber and newer ones like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter played a role, many key technologies featured during the exercise are not in production or even planned for development by the service.

Still, the outcome was a marked improvement to similar war games held over the last two years, which ended in catastrophic losses. The Air Force’s performance this fall offers a clearer vision of what mix of aircraft, drones, networks and other weapons systems it will need in the next decade if it hopes to beat China in a potential war. Some of those items could influence fiscal 2023 budget deliberations.

Registration is now open for the 2021 Games for Change Festival.

Join our global community of developers, educators, students, and researchers virtually to ignite our imaginations about how games and immersive media can help us realize the potential of the years ahead and address our collective challenges: achieving equity and social justice, ensuring a thriving planet, and regaining a sense of security.

Three days of live-streamed talkspanels, and special announcements from the G4C and XR for Change communities

A series of round table discussions geared toward professional knowledge-sharing

An interactive virtual Expo featuring games, XR experiences, sponsors, and G4C programs.

The XR Immersive Arcade highlighting the newest emerging XR experiences for social impact

The Games for Change Awards Ceremony and G4C Awards Showcase celebrating the 2021 G4C Awards finalists!

At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Chad Raymond discusses running his “Gerkhania” comparative politics simulation via Discord.

Discord permits text, voice, and video communication. I deliberately chose not to use its videoconferencing capability and none of the students used it either. We communicated with each other solely through text messages. I believe this enhanced rather than degraded the experience in comparison to Webex — no black boxes instead of faces, and no interrupted video or audio because of low-bandwidth internet connections. A user interface that facilitates text communication also means Discord is suitable for running a simulation like Gerkhania asynchronously rather synchronously, something that isn’t realistic with video-based platforms. 

My use of Discord also meant that students automatically had a complete record of the simulation’s events that they could reference for the final exam. I did not have to take any additional steps, like create and share a recording, for the class to have a history of what had transpired.

In early March, three students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Counterterrorism and the Democracies course at the Institute for World Politics (IWP 669) recreated the initial rise of the now largely-defunct Peruvian insurgent and terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, using a digital version of Brian Train’s wargame Shining Path. An account of their experience can be found here.

The Winter 2021 newletter of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center was published last month, with updates on recent wargames and related activities.

The Reacting to the Past consortium is planning a “Summer of Reacting,” with Part 1 to be held in June.

The board and administration of the Reacting Consortium have decided to offer a variety of games over the course of thesummer, allowing faculty around the country (and the world) the opportunity to play multiple games, and to experiencethe Reacting pedagogy online. Our hope is that by providing a broad array of games and methods for using them, facultywill be able to plan more effectively and confidently for the coming academic year, no matter the circumstances.

This summer includes three conference periods:
Summer of Reacting – Part I (June)
Game Development Conference (early July)
Summer of Reacting – Part II (late July – mid August)

The Reacting Consortium is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. These values inform ourwork to foster an accessible community, our approach to game development, and our determination to contend with “bigideas.” Thanks to our Fundraising Committee and the generosity of our community, we have reserved a few fundedspots in the Summer of Reacting for instructors who are teaching at minority serving institutions (HBCUs, TribalColleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, etc).

You’ll find more on this and their other activities at their website.

Sadly, wargame designer John Tiller passed away on April 26. You’ll find a short obituary at PCGamesN.

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